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Is Jesus the Rule or the Exception?

While John says, "He who says he abides in Him ought himself also to walk just as He walked." 1John 2:6  and Paul says, "Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ." 1Col 11:1  and Peter says, "To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps." 1Peter 2:21 and Jesus said, "anyone who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me." Mt 10:38 there are many in the Christian community who view Jesus as the exception rather than the rule of their life.

While there many examples I've run across where Christians view Jesus as the exception rather than the rule of their life, I was particularly enlightened when I was led to confront a group of institutional religious leaders concerning their hypocrisy. The rhetoric I used was not nearly as strong as that Jesus utilized in Matthew 23, but it upset them enough to take offense. While I noted I was simply following Jesus' precedent, they claimed that with regards to Jesus' severe rhetoric at times, that was was to be exclusive to Jesus. Jesus was to be the exception rather than the example to follow.

Consider Jesus as a precedent for ministry. Much as I concur with John MacArthur on a number of points I was disturbed when he made the statement on public radio that one reason for Jesus coming was to establish an institution. Such mentality is common among the institutionally elite, paid professionals. But it seems to me that Jesus did not come to establish an institution. In fact it appears one of his greatest enemies was institutional religion. One of the first things that happened when he started his ministry was that he got largely expelled from the institutional religion.

He gathered a number of disciples and taught them. But he didn't even establish a religious hierarchy among them, let alone buy a building or provide an institutional name, other than simply his Church. Choosing some for apostles was not for the purpose of ruling over others, but rather to be his official witnesses. When he left, his example of making disciples was to be the rule. "As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world." John 17:18 and he told them, "All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you;" Mt 28:19,20

Do you treat Jesus as the rule or the exception with regards to ministry. Are you planning to make disciples? Are you planning to teach people? Or have you embraced the institutional clergy/laity mindset of paying others to do the ministry for you? The writer of Hebrews observes, "In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again...." Heb 5:12 Would he have said the same of you? How long do you think you must be a Christian before it should be noted of you, "by this time you ought to be teachers"? Have you been following Jesus or just playing church?

There are examples of the apostles themselves failing to grasp Jesus as the precedent to Christian living. First they failed to wait for the Holy Spirit as Jesus commanded and rushed into making a decision which was not theirs to make. For to be an apostle is to be chosen personally by Jesus Christ Himself. Yet they took up a matter of replacing Judas, which was not theirs to take up and chose an apostle by lot, rather than allow the LORD to chose the apostle to replace Judas (namely, Paul).

And even after they received the Holy Spirit they still showed their pride in disregarding the LORD. For in Acts 6 when widows were being overlooked due to prejudice the apostles said,  "It would not be right for us to neglect the ministry of the word of God in order to wait on tables." Acts 6:2 Yet Jesus had washed their feet after a meal and said to them, "I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you." John 13:15. Jesus was trying to teach that ministry and service was not an either/or thing, but a both/and thing. Did Jesus both teach the Word and "wait on tables"? Yes he did. And we note that at this point Acts turns away from the apostles to focus on those who could both wait on tables and teach the Word. In fact two of the people the apostles assigned to deal with this matter were Stephen and Philip. Acts goes on to show they both ministered the Word and waited on tables.

And while Jesus commanded the apostles (the institutionally elite by this time) to have gone to all the world to make disciples, and Peter himself acknowledged. "Brothers, you know that some time ago God made a choice among you that the Gentiles might hear from my lips the message of the gospel and believe." Acts 15:5, yet in that same meeting as Paul notes, "James, Peter and John, those reputed to be pillars (speaking facetiously), gave me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship when they recognized the grace given to me. They agreed that we should go to the Gentiles, and they to the Jews." Gal 2:9, the eleven relinquished their obligation to minister to Gentiles, disregarding the LORD's command. Even persecution wouldn't budge them into fulfilling the Great Commission. "On that day a great persecution broke out against the church at Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria. ... Those who had been scattered preached the word wherever they went." Acts 8:1,4

And why did that meeting in Jerusalem even take place but because a cult had grown inside the church of Jerusalem right under the oversight of Peter, James and John, who apparently were neglecting to teach what should have been taught. Unlike Jesus, at that point, they were afraid (Gal 2:12) of some false brethren (Gal 2:4) and did not confront them as Jesus would have nor even regarded Jesus' warning concerning false teachers (Mt 7:15). Though granted it could be argued that the apostles matured later in these matters.

The principle, not simply based on these particular observations, but rather throughout history, is that once a person views themselves as being in a position of institutional authority, corruption follows. There's a tendency to make too much of oneself, putting down others, judging with partiality, not open to scrutiny, and disregarding the LORD in their life. They become the rule, and Jesus becomes the exception. Jesus did not come to establish an institution, but to establish a relationship with those who would follow him.

The Berean Christian Bible Study Resources